What Equipment do I Need to Own a Pet Snake?
Snakes need to have a living environment that closely resembles their natural habitat. Getting a cage or tank is only the first step towards providing them with a natural environment. There are things like heating lamps, substrate, food and thermometers that are necessary to keep your pet snake both happy and healthy. These keep the snakes from feeling stressed or getting ill and make sure that they’re warm enough. They are also extremely important to help replicate the natural habitat for the snakes.
The snake enclosure is the most expensive thing that will be required. The other items on the list are relatively cheap in comparison. The specific type of equipment that you need will depend on the snake species you intend to get. For example, when African Ball Pythons will be comfortable in having aspen shavings as substrate but other species may not like it. All of these will be available at a local reptile store or online. In this guide, we will talk about everything that you will need to know to own pet snakes.
Tank (Snake Cage)
The tank is the first thing that you’ll want to look at. The snake is going to spend its entire time inside the tank and it should be spacious and comfortable to accommodate the needs of the snake. Depending upon the type of snake you plan to get and their length, you’ll need to buy an enclosure to fit them for the next few years. You can buy 1 large tank now for them, but most snakes start off in a smaller enclosure until they outgrow it. We recommend keeping younger snakes in a smaller 10 to 20-gallon tank and adult snakes in a 40 to 50-gallon tank. This may slightly vary depending on the specific breed.
It is also very important for the enclosure to have a tight lid as snakes will look for opportunities to escape. Covers are usually available as a mesh, plastic or a transparent cover.
Another thing to consider is whether your pet snake needs a tall or long tank. Terrestrial snakes like Milk snakes will need a longer enclosure as they like to move around and stay on the ground. Corn snakes and African Ball Pythons are climbers and to let them have a more natural environment they’ll prefer a taller tank. Both of these tank types will be available at your local pet store or online.
The tanks are available in different materials like plastic, glass and wood. There are a few things to think about regarding the material it’s made from. The first is you’ll want to select a material that can maintain the temperature and humidity for your snake. The other important thing is how it will look in your home. You want it to be a good home for your snake, but you also want it to look good in your home.
Price – $30 to $200.
The substrate is a material that lines on the bottom of your snake’s enclosure. Depending on the type used and depth it can allow the snake to burrow and hide. Astroturf, aspen shavings, reptile bark, reptile carpet and cypress mulch are all popular types of substrate. All of these can be purchased from your local reptile store or online.
The type of substrate you select will depend on the snake species that you have. If you have a snake that needs a subtropical climate then it is necessary for the substrate to stay humid. A cypress mulch substrate would be the ideal option in this case. Most snakes like to burrow and having a loose and deep substrate should allow them to burrow without any problems. If you are looking for something easy to clean and change then Astroturf could also be used. Astroturf can be used for all types of snakes because it replicates the natural habitat of the snakes in the wild.
Price – $12 to $40.
The type of food that needs to be purchased will depend on the species and the age of your pet snake. Most adult snakes will feed on thawed or live mice. Younger snakes need to be fed younger pinkie mice or insects. These can be purchased from a local reptile store or online.
A good way to decide which size mice or rats to feed is to look at the widest part of their body. The size of the mice should not be larger than the diameter of the widest part of your snake’s body. The mice come in packs of 5 to 100. Snakes do not need to be fed often. We suggest that you only keep enough live food for your snake to last two or three feedings. That is, unless you don’t mind raising food for your snake.
We recommend feeding them using a reptile feeding tong. This will prevent them from biting your hand by associating the smell of mice with your hands. Feeding tongs are cheap and are available online.
Frozen Mice Price – $20 to $100 (Depends on the size and quantity of mice)
Feeding Tongs Price – $6 to $15
Snakes are cold-blooded animals and need a warm environment to regulate their body temperature. This is why it is important for your snake’s enclosure to have a heater. The temperature requirements of each snake can vary and the different types of snakes will have different temperature needs.
There are two main types of heaters – under tank heaters/pads and heat lamps. Under the tank, heaters are lined below the substrate of the tank. They provide a larger surface area and are efficient when it comes to keeping the substrate and the tank warm. These are not recommended for nocturnal snakes like the African Ball Pythons. Under tank heaters can be a great option for snakes who are active during the day like the Garter snakes.
Heater pads are great because they’re super simple to use. They have a light adhesive and attach to the bottom of the tank. They generally come with foot pegs that you can put on the bottom of the tank. This encourages airflow under the tank, and keeps the heat from getting trapped and causing things to overheat. If you ever need to replace it, just pull the old one off and put the new one on.
Heat lamps are easy to install and replace. They also allow you to conveniently monitor the temperature inside the tank. By placing the thermometers near where your snake will bask you can get an accurate reading with them. Heat lamps also come in different wattages. The larger your tank the higher wattage of heat lamp you will want.
Price – $15 to $30
This is one aspect that can be confusing for snake owners. With so many different types of lights, it becomes a challenge to select which is best for your snake. Some heating equipment like incandescent bulbs will provide both heat and light. If you have incandescent bulbs inside your tank then you may not need separate lighting equipment. Incandescent lamps can be too hot for Milk and Corn snakes who don’t need as much heat.
There is some confusion regarding whether the snakes need UVB light in captivity. In the wild, they do get UVB light from the sun but no research that concludes that it is necessary for captive snakes. Most snakes have been able to live a healthy life without UVB lighting. However, UVB lighting is not harmful and can actually help the snake to improve vitamin absorption and have more vibrant and healthy looking skin.
The lighting in their enclosure should only be on for 12 hours a day. The most convenient way to set this up would be to use a timer.
Cost – $8 to $30
Snakes need clean drinking water at all times. Their enclosure should have at least one water bowl inside the tank. Sometimes the snake may go inside the bowl, especially when they are shedding their skin. The size of the water bowl should be large enough to allow the snake to curl inside. To prevent the bowl from tipping consider getting one that has a flat and wide base.
The bowl will need to be cleaned once a week. If the bowl becomes too dirty or the snake poops then it should be cleaned immediately. Using a plastic bowl can be helpful as they are easy to clean and last a long time.
Price – $6 to $25
Thermometers and Hygrometers
Keeping the temperature and humidity level just right inside your snake tank is extremely important. Rapid fluctuations can cause your snake to feel stressed or become sick. You’ll want to be able to check that everything is in the comfort zone of your snake anytime you walk past.
Having temperature thermometers inside of your snake’s tank will make it easy to monitor the temperature in different sections. At least one thermometer should be placed on each side of the tank. This will allow you to check the temperature of both sections – hot and cold. You can also place more thermometers if you have a larger tank. If you see that the temperature is out of range the heater can be adjusted immediately to bring the temperature back to the correct levels.
To measure humidity levels, a hygrometer will be needed. You’ll want two of them, one for the hot side and the other on the cooler side. The hygrometers should be placed about an inch above the substrate on each side.
Both thermometers and hygrometers are available in analog and digital models. Digital hygrometers and thermometers are more efficient as they display a more precise reading.
Thermometer Price – $5 to $20
Hygrometer Price – $6 to $10
Thermostats and Rheostats
Thermostats and Rheostats are useful devices that help regulate the temperature and light inside the enclosure. Thermostats are great if you want to have different temperature settings for the day and the night time. Because they’re not very expensive, and they help to replicate the natural temperature changes in the wild we always recommend snake owners use them if they can. There are a few different types. You’ll want to avoid using the ones that turn on and off regularly with a ceramic heat bulb because they can burn these bulbs out fairly quickly.
Using a thermostat really makes it incredibly easy to set the temperature you want for the hot side of your tank, and at what times. If it’s in your budget consider adding one of these to your set up and we think you’ll be happy.
With a rheostat you can set the lighting to different intensity levels. They regulate the amount of power a device can put out. By limiting the amount of power a light puts out it helps simulate a day and night cycle in your enclosure.
Price – $15 to $40
A snake tank is incomplete without a snake hide. Snake hides are objects that allow the snake to curl and conceal themselves. Think of it as their safe space, or their burrow in the wild. Snakes like to hide in the wild and placing snake hides inside the tank helps them feel protected. These help keep your snake from feeling stressed.
There are several types of hides available in the market. They come in different sizes, materials and design options. Snakes might not be comfortable in just any hide. We recommend trying to find one that will allow your snake to curl inside with a little extra room to get out.
Snake hides are affordable and you can get them for as low as $8. If you want to make something more fancy or personal then you can have a look at this guide.
Price – $8 to $30.
You can also add decorations like wood, dry leaves and rocks to your tank. These can make the tank look closer to the natural habitat of the snakes. The type of decorative materials you get ideally depends upon the natural habitat of your pet snake. Many different decorative items can be purchased at your local reptile shop or online.
For snakes who like to climb like the Garter snakes, wood and branches are necessary. This will allow them to climb on the branches and do things as they would in the wild.
If you are adding natural products then make sure to sterilize them before placing them inside the tank.
Price – $5 to $20.